Mayo Clinic Q&A

From complex or serious conditions like cancer and heart disease to the latest news on research and wellness, host Dr. Halena Gazelka asks the questions and gets easy-to-understand answers from Mayo Clinic experts

Most Recent Episodes

a person, a nurse or doctor, in medical scrubs holding their head in their hands in exhaustion, sadness, burnout

COVID-19 taking toll beyond patients
Aug. 25, 2021

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as have booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines. These are welcome developments as the COVID-19 delta variant wave continues to rip through many U.S. communities, exhausting and wearing people down.

"I cannot tell you the emotional toll this has taken on us as physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, and many, many others," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group

"One of my colleagues said, 'I walk around now and can see people with comorbidities, not wearing a mask, and I can tell you what size tracheal tube they're going to need.' We don't normally think like that, but it's illustrative of the steady 18-month drumbeat of seeing people sick and dying of something we can prevent," says Dr. Poland.

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A, Dr. Poland talks more about FDA approvals for COVID-19 vaccines, goes into detail about the COVID-19 virus replication rate and he answering a listener question about the reliability of home COVID-19 tests. Dr. Poland also explains and speaks to the importance of "cocooning" for protection, especially with newborns and toddlers.

computer monitor with the word Hepatitis C

Expanding the donor pool – hepatitis C no longer a barrier to transplant
Aug. 23, 2021

With a goal of shortening the wait time for a solid organ transplant, Mayo Clinic is leading efforts to expand the donor pool by making more organs suitable for transplantation. 

Organs from deceased donors are screened thoroughly, and donated organs that tested positive for hepatitis C were previously discarded. But research at Mayo Clinic has changed that. 

recent Mayo Clinic study found that livers from donors exposed to hepatitis C can be safely used for transplant, thanks to improved treatments for hepatitis C infection. New antiviral drugs are so effective that recipients are protected from the infection.

Now, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center has expanded the protocol to use in other organ transplants.

"We were able to expand to kidney transplant, heart transplant and lung transplant within the past few years, and we have been able to do close to 150 kidney transplants, and 25 heart and lung transplants, using organs from donors with hepatitis C," explains Dr. Bashar Aqel, medical director of the Liver Transplant Program at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. "We had in place a treatment protocol and we treat them for hepatitis C immediately after transplant. Treatment was well tolerated, and everybody was cured from the infection. So more than 200 lives saved with organ transplant from donors with hepatitis C, and everybody has achieved the outcome that we are looking for."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Aqel discusses progress in expanding the donor pool for lifesaving solid organ transplants.

Ask the Mayo Mom / Back-to-School
Aug. 20, 2021

COVID-19 and especially the spread of the delta variant have created a whole new set of challenges this year. And now, children across the US are returning to school during this same time, creating many questions for families.

In this "Mayo Clinic Q&A" podcast, Dr. Angela Mattke, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician and host of #AskTheMayoMom, is joined by two experts in pediatric infectious disease to discuss the important precautions families can take to keep their kids safe and in school. Also on the program, tips from an elementary school principal to help your child prepare for the school year.

closeup of a medical person wearing gloves holding a COVID-19 vaccine syringe

Breaking down the booster terminology for COVID-19 vaccines
Aug. 18, 2021

COVID-19 vaccine boosters are being recommended eight months after a person's second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

"A vaccine booster dose is generally an additional dose above and beyond the primary series needed to achieve protective immunity," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "So the dose that was approved this past week would be better classified as an 'additional dose' for those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised." 

Dr. Poland says those people will have already received two doses, but they need the additional dose in order to improve their immune response to the vaccine.

Dr. Poland continues, "Offering a third dose of the same vaccine to older adults, health care providers and essential workers, that would be a 'booster dose.' Then if we used a variant-specific vaccine, which researchers are working on, that would be called a 'variant booster dose,'" says Dr. Poland.

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland talks extensively about additional and booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, and he discusses the latest COVID-19 research regarding pregnancy and fertility. He also addresses concerns about the variants that experts are predicting will come after the current delta variant. 

"So, for the unvaccinated they keep moving into more and more dangerous phases of the pandemic, as each new variant arises," says Dr. Poland.

a young woman, perhaps Latina or Asian, sitting by a window comforting an older woman wearing a headwrap, perhaps a relative with cancer

Cancer caregivers need care themselves
Aug. 16, 2021

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, partners, family members and friends often step into the role of being a cancer caregiver. They are rarely trained for the job of caregiving, but often become indispensable to the person for whom they care, administering medications, managing side effects, communicating with the cancer care team and so much more.

But what about the toll this takes on the caregiver themselves? 

"I think the self-care for the caregiver is something that we often forget about, and we often don't emphasize enough on the clinical side," says Dr. Joan Griffin, a researcher in Health Care Delivery at Mayo Clinic. "And it's really important, because it's a long, hard marathon to be a cancer caregiver."

Extended periods of providing care for someone else can affect the caregiver's own quality of life, including their sleep and mood. It can even lead to depression.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Griffin shares what caregivers of cancer patients can expect and offers tips on how to take care of themselves at the same time. 

a young woman sitting at a home computer eating pizza with two cups of coffee nearby, maybe stressed with work

Kicking your COVID-19 bad habits
Aug. 13, 2021

For more than a year, COVID-19 has forced people to depart from their normal routines. Physical isolation, working from home, and added stress and anxiety about a deadly coronavirus have led some people to develop bad habits that have consequences on both physical and mental health.

"When we're under stress, we revert back to what's comfortable," says Dr. Benjamin Lai, a Mayo Clinic family medicine physician. "COVID-19 has brought unpredictability and a sense of loss of control. So, we fall back to what's familiar. Some eat for comfort. Some seek alcohol. Some spend too much time on social media. It all boils down to dealing with chronic stress."

So how can these bad habits developed during the pandemic be broken? 

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Lai discusses strategies for getting back to healthier habits.

Mayo Clinic medical personnel in full PPE tending to a patient with COVID-19 in a hospital bed

It’s like a Code Red hospital alert
Aug. 11, 2021

An overwhelming surge of COVID-19 cases is underway in the U.S. The delta variant continues to spread, the lambda variant is showing up, and some people are refusing to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or wear face masks.

"My message today is a hospital term and that's Code Red," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "It is Code Red in the U.S. and for the globe regarding these variants." Dr. Poland adds that the public has been thinking that the COVID-19 pandemic was over but nothing could be further from the truth. 

"You see article after article of people pleading for the vaccine, once they're intubated, or dying, or are begging their family to tell everybody, "We were wrong about this,'" says Dr. Poland. "People who were mocking vaccines and masks are now dead of COVID-19. It makes you feel beside yourself because you're watching a population-wide tragedy occurring, yet can't get the message across to people. "

Dr. Poland encourages people to consider these 5 tips to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Listen to credible experts, not people who are celebrities or politicians, but people who know the science.
  • Get vaccinated.
  • Wear a proper mask properly.
  • Limit your travel to only that which is essential.
  • Avoid crowds and if it's inevitable you have to be around a crowd, stay to the periphery and wear a mask.

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland goes into detail about the latest COVID-19 research, back-to-school masking, air travel and explains why people who have already had COVID-19 still need to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

a medical illustration of orange coronavirus with a dark blue background

How Mayo hopes to slam the door when COVID-19 comes knocking
Aug. 9, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought public awareness to vaccines and how vaccines work. A vaccine is any agent that causes the immune system to remember a specific disease-causing entity, thereby preventing future infections. In the case of COVID-19, that's a coronavirus.

At Mayo Clinic, decades of research have led to development of a new vaccine platform — a single-cycle adenovirus nasal vaccine — that is now being tested in a phase 1 clinical trial for COVID-19.

“Single-cycle is particularly potent as a nasal vaccine, fighting SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) at its site of entry,” says Dr. Michael Barry, director of Mayo Clinic’s Vector and Vaccine Engineering Laboratory.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Barry discusses the research behind vaccine development and the possibility of future applications for the new vaccine platform.

closeup of young white or perhaps Asian woman touching her neck near her throat, maybe a goiter, thyroid disease

Overtreating an underactive thyroid
Aug. 6, 2021

The thyroid gland creates and produces hormones that play a role in many systems throughout the body. When your thyroid makes too much or too little of these important hormones, it’s called a thyroid disease.

And thyroid disease is common.

"We know that about 10% of people have some degree of thyroid dysfunction," says Dr. Juan Brito Campana, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist. 

There are several different types of thyroid disease, including hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid; hypothyroidism or under active thyroid; and Hashimoto’s disease, where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disease. Treatment for hypothyroidism involves daily use of levothyroxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone that restores adequate hormone levels.

Levothyroxine is one of the most common prescription drugs in the U.S., but a new study by Mayo Clinic researchers suggests it is significantly overused in people with mild hypothyroidism or no apparent thyroid dysfunction. These results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Brito Campana discusses diagnosis and treatment for thyroid disease, and what the research on the overuse of levothyroxine means for patients.

a Mayo Clinic medical staff person, a young, perhaps Asian woman, in PPE and assisting a COVID-19 patient in bed and monitoring her vital signs

The COVID-19 delta variant has changed everything

Aug. 4, 2021

A fourth COVID-19 surge is blanketing the U.S., and the delta variant is the culprit.

"Where did this delta variant come from? It came from unvaccinated people getting infected in large numbers allowing the virus to continue mutating," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group.

In the past, a person with COVID-19 might infect two to four people. But with the delta variant, one person can infect nine people, according to Dr. Poland. He says if you want to protect yourself and your family, wear a mask, especially indoors, and get vaccinated with an appropriate series of one of the COVID-19 vaccines.

"These are the most studied vaccines in the history of the world," Dr. Poland emphasizes. "There have never been this many people who have received this many doses of vaccines during this amount of time with as much scrutiny as these COVID-19 vaccines have had." 

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland answers questions about a person's waning immunity and the likelihood of COVID-19 booster shots. He also explains the two phases of immunity and goes into detail about the extensive Federal Drug Administration license approval process for COVID-19 vaccines.